Sec 17 CPC - Suit In Respect Of Different Properties Can Be Filed In Any Of The Courts Having Jurisdiction If Cause Of Action Is The Same : SC [Read Judgment]
"Section 17 can be applied in event there are several properties, one or more of which may be located in different jurisdiction of courts. The word "portion of the property" occurring in Section 17 has to be understood in context of more than one property also, meaning thereby one property out of a lot of several properties can be treated as portion of the property as occurring in Section 17"
The Supreme Court has held that the word 'property' in Section 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure can include more than one property.
Therefore, the application of Section 17 CPC is not restricted to situations where portions of a single property fall within different jurisdictions; rather, it will apply to even those cases where the suit is concerning different properties situated in different jurisdictions, held the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and K M Joseph.
However, there is a rider that the suit in respect of the properties must be arising out of same cause of action.
Section 16 contains the general principle that suits are to be instituted where the immovable property is situated. Section 17 engrafts an exception by stating that if portions of a property are situated in different jurisdiction, the suit can be instituted in any of the courts having jurisdiction over such portions.
The Supreme Court in this case (Shivnarayan (D) By LRs vs Maniklal(D) By LRs) expanded the definition of Section 17 to include within it cases arising out of same cause of action in respect of more than one property situated in different jurisdictions.
The case arose out of a suit seeking partition of joint family properties after setting aside certain documents of conveyance. The suit was instituted in a civil court at Indore. However, properties situated at Mumbai were also scheduled in the plaint.
The trial court struck off the properties in Mumbai scheduled in the plaint stating the reason that they were outside the court's territorial jurisdiction. This was challenged in the High Court by the plaintiff. The High Court turned down the challenge saying that Section 17 of CPC cannot be applied to a scenario of more than one property located in different jurisdictions.
This led the plaintiff to approach the Supreme Court. Allowing his appeal, the Court observed :
"The word "property" under Section 17 of the Civil Procedure code may also be properties, hence, in a schedule of plaint, more than one property can be included. Section 17 can be applied in event there are several properties, one or more of which may be located in different jurisdiction of courts. The word "portion of the property" occurring in Section 17 has to be understood in context of more than one property also, meaning thereby one property out of a lot of several properties can be treated as portion of the property as occurring in Section 17. Thus, interpretation of word "portion of the property" cannot only be understood in a limited and restrictive sense of being portion of one property situated in jurisdiction of two courts"
In holding so, the bench referred to Section 13 of the General Clauses Act, which says that words in singular shall include the plural and vice versa.
"We are also of the same view that the word "property" used in Section 17 can be more than one property or properties", said the judgment authored by Justice
The Court said that its reasoning was fortified by Section 39 (1)(c) of the CPC, which indicates that a decree passed by a court can deal with immovable properties situated outside its jurisdiction.
The conclusions of the Court are :
- (i) The word 'property' occurring in Section 17 although has been used in 'singular' but by virtue of Section 13 of the General Clauses Act it may also be read as 'plural', i.e., "properties".
- (ii) The expression any portion of the property can be read as portion of one or more properties situated in jurisdiction of different courts and can be also read as portion of several properties situated in jurisdiction of different courts.
- (iii) A suit in respect to immovable property or properties situate in jurisdiction of different courts may be instituted in any court within whose local limits of jurisdiction, any portion of the property or one or more properties may be situated.
- (iv) A suit in respect to more than one property situated in jurisdiction of different courts can be instituted in a court within local limits of jurisdiction where one or more properties are situated provided suit is based on same cause of action with respect to the properties situated in jurisdiction of different courts.
Coming to the facts of the case, the bench noted that the suit was arising out of different causes of actions pertaining to different documents executed by different defendants.
"The plaint encompasses different causes of action with different set of defendants. The cause of action relating to Indore property and Bombay property were entirely different with different set of defendants. The suit filed by the plaintiff for Indore property as well as Bombay property was based on different causes of action and could not have been clubbed together. The suit as framed with regard to Bombay property was clearly not maintainable in the Indore Courts", held the judgment authored by Justice Bhushan.
Therefore, the appeal was dismissed, affirming the findings of the High Court and trial court, but on a different reasoning.